Faculty spotlight: professor Lorenz brings biology to life

03.17.2014 | By Rob Vanya

Faculty spotlight: professor Lorenz brings biology to life


QUESTION: Why did you choose education as a career field, and biology as a field of study?

STEPHAN LORENZ: Even as a child I liked the idea of teaching, and I have always been acutely interested in living things, especially animals. So, for me to pursue a career as an educator was sort of natural. My first experience as an educator was during graduate school when I served for a while as a teacher’s assistant. I found that I really liked everything about teaching. My first experience as a full-time educator was here at San Jacinto College, where I started in 2011.

Q: How has your experience at San Jacinto College been so far?

A: I really like it here. It’s rare to find such a place where you like everyone. There’s collaboration among faculty, staff, and students. I have so much support from administration and other experienced educators in our department, so I am learning and growing as a teacher. People at this campus say it’s like family, and it’s really true.

Q: What experience in biology do you have other than the field of education?

A: I worked as a field biologist, and specifically in the area of landscape ecology, which has nothing to do with landscape as most people understand the word. Landscape ecology deals with relationships between large-scale populations, such as birds, and large landscape configurations. It involves studying ecosystems and the delicate balance that exists among various life forms. I have also worked as a tour guide, in which role I led birding and natural history tours. I also worked as a naturalist, with a focus on rainforest ecology.

Q: What is your personal teaching philosophy? How do you make the subject of biology interesting to students?

A: My goal is to build a close personal connection with each student. I strive to make biology relevant, to show how biology can be useful in the real world. To do that, I get students to take part in on-campus projects during which we explore fields and streams and other ecosystems so they learn such things as how to classify plants and animals. I think such in-the-field, hands-on, and interactive learning brings biology to life and makes it more relevant for students.

Q: You’ve done extensive travel and research. Is there valid reason for concern about things like climate change, pollution, deforestation, overpopulation and other ecological issues?

A: I believe there is cause for concern. Some species are close to vanishing. Ecosystems in some parts of the world are nearing a tipping point due to things like climate change, pollution, and deforestation. These things may not mean the end of the world, but they certainly can lead to quality of life issues for all species, including humans.

Q: What are some practical steps to take to be more earth-friendly and compatible with the natural world?

A: It’s a matter of increased awareness of the need to conserve resources, the need to recycle, the need to reuse materials. It sounds cliché, but all life forms on the Earth really are inter-connected and I believe there needs to be more consideration and a better understanding of the needs of all species.


Lorenz serves as a biology professor at the San Jacinto College North Campus. He grew up in Potsdam, Germany and his family emigrated to the Houston area when he was 16. He graduated from Dobie High School in 1999. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Houston, and a master’s in biology from the University of Texas-Tyler. Lorenz and his wife, Claudia Cavazos, live near the Houston Medical Center. Lorenz recently earned a San Jacinto College 2013-2014 Excellence Award based on dedication, collaboration, and other exemplary attributes. He has authored many published academic articles dealing with conservation, biology, and especially the behavior of birds. His current academic project deals with distribution of Texas birds with a focus on coastal ecosystems.


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